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Sabres Central

Sabres Week in Review
By Rick Anderson
December 30, 2001

Columbus goalie Ron Tugnutt makes a critical save as Sabres' Curtis Brown and former Sabre Jean-Luc Grand Pierre battle for position.
[AP Photo/Chris Putman]

This was a week where the Sabres proclaimed that they were going to turn it around. After losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs last Saturday, the Sabres took their Christmas break and came back determined to turn their season around. They started on the right foot, beating the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 the day after Christmas, but Saturday night failed to beat the worst team in the league, the Columbus Blue Jackets. Having already lost to Columbus earlier in the year, Buffalo had to make the most of their lowly competition. Once again, they played up to the level of the competition, and had to fight back twice to tie Columbus 2-2.

With just 6 minutes remaining in the contest, Sabres captain Stu Barnes notched the game at 2. It was just 39 seconds after Columbus apparently scored the game-winner on a goal by Ray Whitney. With the embarrassing aspect of losing to lowly Columbus for the second time in the year, Barnes got a pass from Miroslav Satan in the right circle. Barnes was being taken down by Deron Quint, but just managed to get a shot off that eluded Ron Tugnutt on the far side.

In the overtime, the Sabres couldn't even manage a shot on Tugnutt. The Blue Jackets got six shots off on Sabres goalie Martin Biron, who had to be sharp to prevent a loss. Biron, who didn't start the Montreal game, had 25 saves.

Rocky road from here

It is going to be a rocky road for the Sabres if they are going to attempt to make the playoffs. Still down four games from the even mark, Buffalo has squandered huge opportunities all season by letting games they should win slip away. Against Columbus, the Sabres have a measly one point. Add to that losses to Atlanta, Nashville, Florida and Tampa Bay, and the Sabres looked a gift horse in the mouth. The second half of the season won't be a cakewalk to say the least.

In Saturday's game against the Blue Jackets, the Sabres got off 32 shots on Tugnutt and managed to get only 2 behind him. Once again they made their opposing goalie look great. The Sabres have to bury their chances.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets got 2 powerplay goals. To make matters worse, they hadn't scored on a powerplay at home for all of December before the Sabres got them off the hook. Mike Sillinger got Columbus' first powerplay goal in 31 attempts when Jay McKee failed to take him out and Sillinger's shot went five-hole on Biron.

The last week saw the Sabres splitting the three games, 1-1-1. The middle game against the Habs was the Sabres best game of the three.

The Sabres start off the upcoming week doing their "Tux & Pucks" thing on New Years Eve against Carolina. And then travel to Calgary for a game on January 3. Three days later, they travel to Minnesota to face the Wild.

Kozlov injured, will miss 2 months

Slava Kozlov, just when he started to get hot, came down with a serious injury Saturday against the Blue Jackets. Tyler Wright accidently cut Kozlov's Achilles tendon in his lower leg and had to have help off the ice as he was bleeding profusely. The wound required 60 stitches and first reports are that two-thirds of the tendon had been cut.

, and it took 60 stitches to close the wound. The first estimate was that Kozlov will be out for at least the next two months and then it was revised to between 6 and 8 weeks.

"There was a trail of blood coming off the ice," described Lindy Ruff. "We knew it was serious."

Kozlov didn't see how he got cut.

"I don't know what happened," explained Kozlov. "I just tried to protect the puck and then I felt it. It's just bad luck. It could have been anybody, but it's me. It's frustrating, but what can you do?"

Kozlov was finally producing, getting around a point a game since his benching three weeks ago. Now the Sabres must juggle their lines again.

"It's tough," Ruff realized. "We've said for the last couple of weeks he's probably been our best forward. That line (Kozlov, Connolly and Afinogenov) was going real good for us. There are some guys that are going to have to step up and elevate their games."

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